David Burlyuk
Biography of Ukrainian Painter, Founder of Russian Futurism.

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David Burlyuk (1882-1967)


Training and Early Career
Emigrates to America
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An important figure in Russian art of the early 20th century, David Burlyuk was a Ukrainian painter, poet, book illustrator and writer, who co-founded the Futurism movement in Russia. Although he participated in exhibitions of German Expressionism, staged by Der Blaue Reiter, he was also associated with various styles of abstract art, including Rayonism and Cubism, and dabbled briefly in other abstract art movements including Russian Suprematism and Constructivism. Along with Russian artists such as Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), Lyubov Popova (1889-1924) and El Lissitzky (1890-1941), David Burlyuk was a key organizer and participant in the Russian avant garde.

Training and Early Career

Descendants of Russian Cossacks, the Ukrainian-born book illustrator and painter, David Davidovich Burlyuk, and his younger brother, Vladimir (1886-1917), were inseparable and were to be found together from their first training at art college in Kazan. In 1903, they went to Munich and became pupils of Anton Azbe (1861-1905) at the city's Royal Academy. In 1904-5 they visited Paris and worked in Fernand Cormon's studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1908, the brothers organized an exhibition of modern art in Kiev, with the group Zveno ("The Link") and modern artists like Vladimir Baranoff-Rossine (1888-1944), Aleksandra Ekster (1882-1949) and Alexander Bogomazov (1880–1930). In 1910 the Burlyuks became founder members of the Knave of Diamonds group (Bubnoviyi Valet), along with Larionov, Goncharova, Malevich, Piotr Konchalovsky (1876-1956), Ilya Mashkov (1884-1944) and Alexander Kuprin (1880-1960), and spent a year studying at the Art School in Odessa (1910-11). [Note: In 1911, following a dispute about aesthetics between Burlyuk and Goncharova, Larionov set up a rival organization to the Knave of Diamonds, known as the "Donkey's Tail group".] After this, the Burlyuks studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (MUZHVZ) (1911-12), where they also helped to organize the city's first exhibition of Russian avant-garde art. At this time their own work combined elements of Russian folk art, neo-primitivism and Cubist motifs.


Further exhibitions and the formation of various circles of artists and writers quickly followed. In 1911 they met Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) in Odessa, and from then on participated in the exhibitions of the New Association of Artists (Neue Kunstlervereinigung) in Munich, including shows organized by the Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) expressionist group. Burlyuk was influenced in particular by the painting of Franz Marc (1880-1916). In the show catalogues, Kandinsky and Burlyuk were the spokesmen of modern Russian painting. Returning to Saint Petersburg in November 1912, Burlyuk lectured on Cubism and other abstract art movements, and set up the modernist Futurism movement in Russia.

Russian Futurists comprised a loose-knit group of Russian poets and visual artists who followed the principles of Filippo Marinetti's avant-garde art movement "futurismo", launched in 1909. Russian Futurism began in December 1912, when the Moscow-based artist group Hylaea (launched in 1910 by Burlyuk) issued a manifesto (co-written by Burlyuk) entitled "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste". The Moscow group was the largest of several Futurist circles, and included Burlyuk, his brother Vladimir (1886-1917), joined afterwards by Vasily Kamensky (1884-1961) and Velimir Khlebnikov (1885-1922), and later by Alexei Kruchenykh (1886-1968) and Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930): the others included Igor Severyanin's Ego-Futurists (St Petersburg), Boris Pasternak's Tsentrifuga (Moscow), plus circles in Kiev and Odessa. Although Russian Futurism was dominated by literary artists - several of whom were also active in fine art painting - most members collaborated on artistic projects such as the Futurist opera "Victory Over the Sun", with words by Kruchenykh, sets by Kasimir Malevich and music by Mikhail Matyushin. Similar to their Italian counterparts, Russian Futurists were fascinated with the speed and dynamism of modern machines, as well as urban life. They deliberately courted controversy by renouncing the "static art" of the past.

In 1915 David Burlyuk published "The Support of the Muses in Spring", with book illustrations by himself, his brother Vladimir and Lentulov. For most of the next two years he lived in the Urals, albeit with frequent trips to Moscow and St Petersburg. In 1917, along with Ekster and Malevich, he took part in an exhibition with the Knave of Diamonds group in Moscow. In the same year, his brother Vladimir - who had been conscripted into the army - was killed in action on the Eastern Front.

Emigrates to America

In 1918, David left his homeland and spent four years travelling through Siberia, Japan, and Canada, before eventually settling in the United States in 1922. In 1925 - together with Alexander Bogomazov, Alexander Khvostenko-Khvostov, Vadym Meller and Vasiliy Yermilov - he co-founded the Association of Revolutionary Masters of Ukraine (ARMU), in America, and two years later joined the Suprematist Kasimir Malevich and the Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin in an exhibition of the Latest Artistic Trends, held in the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. In 1930, he became an American citizen. Between 1937 and 1966 he and his artist-wife Marussia co-wrote and published the art magazine "Color & Rhyme".

In 1940, the Soviet government refused permission for David to visit his homeland. He had offered to donate a large collection of archival material on the Russian Futurist artist Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), as well as more than 100 original oil paintings. Finally, in 1956, and again in 1965, he was allowed to revisit the Soviet Union. David Burlyuk died on Long Island, New York, in 1967, at the age of 85. In 1990, he was commemorated by the Russian Academy of Futurist Poetry, who established the annual David Burlyuk Prize for experimental poetry.

Paintings by David Burlyuk can be seen in some of the best art museums in Europe.

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• For important Russian sponsors, see: Savva Mamontov (1841-1918) and Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898).

• For other important figures in early 20th century Russian arts and crafts, see: Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929), impresario of the Ballets Russes (1909-29), and his assistants Leon Bakst (1866-1924) and Alexander Benois (1870-1960), all of whom did an enormous amount to promote Russian art around the world.


• For biographies of other 19th-century and 20th-century Russian artists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more details of painting, see: Homepage.

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